Ka'au Crater

HARD 272 reviews

Ka'au Crater is a 4.7 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Honolulu, Hawaii that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

DISTANCE
4.7 miles
ELEVATION GAIN
2322 feet
ROUTE TYPE
Loop

dogs on leash

birding

hiking

nature trips

rock climbing

trail running

walking

forest

river

views

waterfall

wild flowers

wildlife

bugs

muddy

old growth

over grown

rocky

scramble

This hike is challenging and can be slippery and dangerous. If you don't know how to navigate in the outdoors you should consider another trail that is well-marked OR hike the trail in a counter-clockwise route as far as the waterfall and return the way you came. This is an amazing hike with three waterfalls and gorgeous views of Honolulu, Kaneohe, Kailua, Diamond Head, and Ka'au Crater. This hike is not too challenging until the 3rd waterfall which you climb up to get to the ridge portion of the hike. This is where it got extremely muddy and a bit dangerous. The view from the top of the ridge is incredible! Pack more food and water than you think you'd need, it's very steep and tiring.

20 hours ago

Great hike! The hardest one I've done on the island but the reward at the top is worth it!

hiking
22 hours ago

My favorite trail so far. Its a blast, starts you slow with the river on your side and turns in to waterfall heaven, 3 waterfalls each a bit harder to climb every time, then it turns in to windy ridge with beautiful scenery of waikiki and kailua on the other side.

Wear good shoes or if you're from the island like me ( Puerto Rico) then no shoes, is a blast. Keep eyes open for delicious mountain apples ( poma rosas) and guavas.

hiking
2 days ago

3 days ago

The hike can be challenging at times, especially at the crater. When we went, we weren't aware of how high the trail actually went so be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks, maybe a lunch. There's some parts of the trail that are almost vertical and the rope on the trail is needed. Also, at the crater the trail gets very narrow and steep, pretty sketchy. But for anyone looking for a challenge who has the better part of the day open, I would highly recommend this hike. Pack more food and water than you think you'd need, it's very steep and tiring.

4 days ago

7 days ago

very muddy. if bringing kids i would recommend them being allot older.

hiking
7 days ago

Know thy self. Know your skills. Know your abilities.

Speaking as a semi-casual hiker, this trail is among my all-time favorites, but it comes with caveats.

1) This Trail is Unauthorized: It's a little off the grid with limited parking, which means there's a good chance you'll never pass a fellow hiker along the way, which is pretty cool. However, its unofficial status also means safety is not guaranteed. Of course, the same can be said for any National Park trail as well, but the risk is multiplied in Ka'au's case. Ropes are provided in most tough areas but definitely not all and the ribbons used as trail markers are usually placed frequently enough to find your way but there are still some times where you must meander a little on your own.

Essentially, the sign at the trailhead is to be taken literally. Hike at your own risk. If the trail has experienced any sort failure or weakening, there's a chance no one's going to warn you or stop you from going.

2) This Trail Can Be Dangerous (and Super Muddy) When Wet: My hat goes off to hiking pros who've lived and been through these types of conditions on hiking trails before but for me and my travel buddy, this was easily the muddiest and dirtiest hike of our life. If it's rained in the area recently, you're going to be in for a muddy time. We tried to avoid the mud for the first mile or two but quickly found the exercise to be futile. Instead, you just have to own it and accept that your hiking shoes and probably most of your lower torso is going to be caked in mud by the time it's all said and done (bring a second wardrobe to change into at the end of the hike... and towels... and something to sit on for the sake of your car seats).

Now for the danger. We'd heard that a wet Ka'au could be a dangerous Ka'au, so we proceeded with caution when we noticed a rain cloud above the crater. And quite truthfully, 90 percent of the hike up felt pretty safe, all things considered. But just when you start to wonder if everyone else was exaggerating about the negative effects of water on the trail, things will get hairy. There's a lot of clay here and wet clay combined with hiking shoes also caked in clay means there's going to be multiple moments where you either won't have the grip needed to ascend or you'll find yourself sliding downward on your butt and in peril.

3) Seriously, Know Your Limits: Again, we're not hiking pros, so this is more for folks like us, who've tackled a few cool hikes here or there but for whom it's not a daily passion. We loved this hike. Climbing the waterfalls via rope-walk is one of the coolest things I've ever done. It all seemed a lot more do-able than I thought it was going to be.

Until it wasn't.

Once we hit the crater, we made the decision to hike it clockwise. It was still wet and muddy, but we powered through and felt pretty good about ourselves. About 60 percent of the way around, however, things really began getting dicey. Just before reaching the three peaks, and shortly after the path narrowed severely with cliffs along each side, we began running into a number or ascents that did not have ropes or clear grabs where typically there had been before. After a few of the scarier hiking moments we've ever experienced—and after seeing the remnants of a recent landslide just off the third peak—we realized it was likely in our best interest to turn around and re-trace our steps. After miles of most of the trail making sense and offering all the proper help when needed, it seemed as though we suddenly hit an area that came up empty - no rope, no roots, no branches, zero traction, straight up. Tough pill to swallow when we felt so close to finishing up the trail proper but as tourists with solid-but-not-awesome hiking skills, we realized we probably pushed it further than we should have in the first place, considering the weather and trail condition.

4) Hiking the Waterfalls Isn't as Rough as it May Seem: This was our favorite part of the hike. Pictures and videos can make these climbs appear to be quite a tall order (steep, wet, long) but they go pretty quickly and smoothly, assuming you're concentrating and utilizing the ropes. You cover a lot of ground in a hurry. Such a fun and unique experience.

5) Time of Hike Varies Greatly: We read a few reviews that stated this was a 5-ish-mile hike that would take between 4.5 and 5 hours to complete. Definitely possible. But if you're more of a go-with-the-flow-and-soak-it-in type, you could push 6 hours plus, particularly if you stop for a snack, a photo op or two, or end up doubling back after realizing you can't climb that clay slide of doom.

6) This Hike is Awesome: This was easily one of the most memorable trails we've ever tackled, right up there with the Redwoods, Angel's Landing, and Smoky. You really do have to be aware of your own limitations here, or at least the limitations being imposed upon you by the environment and climate. If you've got that

hiking
11 days ago

This hike has incredible views with 3 waterfalls and is not too challenging until the 3rd waterfall which you climb up to get to the ridge portion of the hike. This is where it got extremely muddy and a bit dangerous. The view from the top of the ridge is incredible!

I would suggest going with LOTS of water and when the weather isn't as rainy because the mud is really bad right now and we literally had to crawl on our butt, hands and feet to descend a few spots after getting to the top of the ridge.

We did get a couple minor scratches and some bug bites, but it was worth it

11 days ago

hiking
12 days ago

The start of the hike was amazing. The views and the sound of water rushing kept us motivated. You pass by 3 waterfalls and on the third, you climb up the side. As long as you have good strength, you won't have a problem. The ropes definitely help! Once you get to the marsh, if you take the path to right, it will lead you to the peaks of the mountain.

You will have an amazing view, but this part is very dangerous! It gets very muddy and the terrain is a lot harder. We did it in tennis shoes and that was a mistake. When you're going up, the sides get steeper and the room for your feet dissipates. Watch your step and you'll be fine!

Using the map on this app definitely help us stay on the course to help us get back safely! Be prepared to get cuts on your leg because of the foliage. If I were to do it again, I would bring more water, we only took 4 water bottles for 2 of us and we ran dry at the end. There is a lot of mud, so be ready to get muddy! Also, having hiking shoes would be key.

All in all, it was a tough hike for us because we had tennis shoes and are complete amateurs to hiking. It took us 7 hours, but we made a lot of stops for pictures and lunch!

hiking
18 days ago

hiking
18 days ago

20 days ago

hiking
21 days ago

24 days ago

Beautiful and terrifying. This is a very difficult, death defying hike. Don't underestimate the challenge.

25 days ago

28 days ago

Great hike. Took about 4.5 hours. It was wet and muddy..... Really slow going. One of my favorite hikes while on Oahu

28 days ago

If you can't handle hiking with ropes, don't attempt this trail; there are lots of ropes. You can also cut west along the ridge at the top (instead of coming down the west side of the crater), ascend Mt Olympus, and come down the Wa'ahila trail.... This requires catching a car or parking a second vehicle at Waʻahila Ridge State Recreation Area.

29 days ago

Long and beautiful. Wear good shoes and bring water! Depending on the time of year, there's lots of fruit along the way.

hiking
1 month ago